Page 3197 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 19 August 2008
there would never be a circumstance in which the commissioner may need to intervene with a community housing provider as a last resort.
The notion that vengeance might be extracted is offensive in the extreme. In fact, let us go back a little bit in history and think about what happened with the community housing sector. They were an appallingly administered bunch of well-meaning amateurs. What happened was that that part of the sector was reformed. And it was reformed because, if they had not reformed themselves, they were not going to get the monetary support from the government that we put into the sector.
What happened? They did reform. They are now viable; they are the best in the country at the moment, because they were required to reform. We boast about them at the Housing Ministers Council. There is no vengeance. They were assisted by officers of the Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services. Those officers went out of their way; they were subject to invective and to vicious comments that I found objectionable at the time, and I will not put up with it in the public arena.
There is confidence in that sector. Why would you put a $50 million revolving line of credit out to a sector that you did not have any confidence in? Why would you put 142 places out there? Why would I go and officially launch ECHO if I did not have confidence in them? It does not make any sense. That sounds like the paranoid bleatings of people who have been left behind—and so they should be. If people are so worried about it that they are going to say, “Well, somebody might wreak vengeance on me,” I have got a very simple message for them: get out of the game; we don’t need you. There are plenty of people out there who will come on board. The regime that we are introducing here is already in place in Victoria. We have already had expressions of support from Victoria. In particular, the Victorian Minister for Housing has congratulated us on this move forward.
I am not going to agree to an amendment proposed by people who think they are lilywhite and pure, because they are not. This piece of legislation allows us to have a last-resort power. There is $1½ billion worth of stock, and we are trying to protect the territory’s interests while at the same time, and just as importantly, protect the people who live in these houses from possibly going belly-up. If the commissioner has all of these powers, so be it. The commissioner can use those powers to bring people to the table to talk about their viability and make sure that their viability actually produces a good result for the tenants who are living in those homes.
We see the community housing sector as the transitional housing sector. We want it to thrive, and I am getting fed up with people talking down the good work of the officers of my department who have tried, against almost insuperable odds, to make this sector work. And I am sick and tired of petty little kingdoms and fiefdoms sitting out there and thinking: “We don’t need regulation, we don’t need to have our wings clipped, we don’t need any accountability to the government. We don’t need any accountability to the public purse. Just give us the houses and we’ll look after them. You can trust us; we’re not politicians.” Quite frankly, I do trust them; that is why we have given them all of this stock. But I am going to have something sitting in the background which protects that trust, so that if anybody betrays that trust we can get them to the table and say, “Let’s have a chat about this.”